711.56373/4–1552: Telegram

The Minister in Libya (Villard) to the Department of State

secret

560. I took occasion after dinner I gave for Consul General Jernegan April 12 to ask PriMinMuntasser whether he still thought our base agreement wld be ratified during forthcoming session of Parliament in Tripoli (Legtel 503 Mar 29).1 With Parliament not meeting until April 27 and with numerous laws and various internatl agreements on docket, I wondered whether time margin was sufficient to assure passage in month remaining before Ramadan and probable summer adjournment.

Muntasser replied he anticipated no difficulties and repeated his desire to introduce agreement at most propitious moment, which he believed wld occur well before commencement of Ramadan, May 27.2

During call at my office today, however, conversation on this subj developed new angle. Speaking frankly and confidentially, PriMin said there was growing body of opinion that US shld assume primary responsibility for Libyan nation rather than UK or France. Reputation of US among Libyans was higher than that of any other country and its great resources qualified US to underwrite Libya’s needs much better than UK. For example, it wld mean little to US to back up Libyan currency and otherwise serve as principal guarantor of Libya’s existence [Page 543]as independent nation. In return, Libya had much to offer US owing to its strategic geographic location in Mediterranean.

While Libyans had nothing against the Brit, it was feared in some quarters that after a few years of primary Brit interest and support, recent events in Cairo wld repeat themselves in Libya. For this reason, progress on negotiating agreements with Brit was very slow, although it was assumed an accord wld eventually be reached. With respect to the French there were real difficulties. Libyans had little confidence in France and any Libyan-French agreement was still some distance off. Relations with the Italians were satis but negot of property agreement was slow and filled with obstacles.

I said US had many other commitments besides Libya, and that owing to its war experience in this area and general position in the Middle East, it was only natural that UK shld have primary responsibility for Libya. I appreciated confidence of Libyans in US polit disinterestedness but I did not see how we cld enter into greater commitments here than we already have. I said I hoped this trend of thought wld not interfere with early consideration of our base agreement as it now stands.

Muntasser replied he was reporting this sentiment to me only because it might be brought out publicly during debate on base agreement. He did not think it wld impede ratification. I asked whether it wld be necessary for Libya to conclude agreements with UK before taking up US agreement, to which he replied in the negative.

Villard
  1. Not printed; it reported a conversation the Minister had had with the Prime Minister shortly after the opening of the Parliament in Benghazi on Mar. 25. The Prime Minister said he wanted the ground to be so carefully prepared before he asked the Parliament to consider the U.S. base agreement that nothing could prejudice its successful outcome. He said it would probably be brought up when the Parliament met later in Tripoli. (711.56373/3–2952)
  2. Telegram 637 from Tripoli, May 8, reported the Prime Minister seemed much less sure the agreement would be ratified before Ramadan. The President of the Libyan Senate suggested it might be September before Parliament could resume and consider the agreement. (711.56373/5–852)